Hiring chauffeur-driven cars abroad is pretty expensive. But renting a car and driving it yourself is quite cheap. Besides, it makes the entire journey extremely flexible and far more enjoyable. You can travel at your own pace, stop where you like, for as long as you like. I love to stop at the convenience stores located in the petrol pumps and purchase fresh fruits, snacks, beverages, etc. and munch them on the way. You can hire from a selection of cars at all major inter national airports.
Your national driving license is not valid abroad. Driving licenses are only valid in the country of issue. So, you need an International Driving Permit (often wrongly called "International Driving Licence") to drive abroad.
International Driving Permit
On September 19, 1949, the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic established the international driving permit allowing motorists to drive in foreign countries. The present standards were defined by the United Nations Conference on Road Traffic, Final Act, held in 1968.
The international driving permit is not a substitute for the normal driving license; it is only a complementary document when traveling abroad. The normal driving license must also be carried at all times. Technically, the permit is simply a translation of the information contained in the Original Driver’s License, often in the local language, so that the police and other regulatory agencies can read and understand it. Today, it is recognized and valid in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Getting the permit
The licensing authority which has issued your driving license and the regional automobile associations can issue international driving permits. The procedure for obtaining this is fairly simple and straightforward. You have to submit:
The application form
- Original valid passport and one photocopy of the passport
- Valid visa and photocopy
- Four (or five) identical passport-size photographs; and
- The prescribed fee, which is around Rs 800.
The format of the international driving permit has been standardized. The permit is in the form of a booklet in format A 6 (148 x 105 mm). The cover is grey and the inside pages white. Both sides of the front cover should be printed in the national language, or in one of the regional languages of the issuing State. The last two inside pages should be printed in French.
Handwritten or typed entries made in the permit shall be in Latin characters or in English.
The list of signatory countries which recognize international driving permits can be viewed online at http://www.unece.org/trans/conventn/
Though India is a signatory to the convention, its name does not figure in the site.
Warning: On the Internet you will find a number of agencies abroad, including some purporting to be US-based, promising to give you an international driving permit. No foreign agency is authorized to issue the permit. Go to the nearest licensing authority or the local automobile association.
Given below are the Web sites of major automobile associations in India. You can get the application form and the requirements of the respective associations.
Western India Automobile Association (Mumbai) www.wiaaindia.com
Automobile Association of Eastern India (Kolkata) www.uraaei.org
Automobile Association of Southern India (Chennai) www.aasindia.in (Only life members are eligible)
Automobile Association of Upper India (New Delhi) www.aaui.org
You can find out the requirements of the Delhi Licensing Authority at http://transport.delhigovt.nic.in
Most of the other licensing authorities need similar documentation.